Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Stepping Back Into the Body


"I don't want to go in there..."
is how he said it tearfully when I suggested Adam take a moment and feel what was actually going on in his body. Middle-aged and overweight, he was now struggling with a flood of negative thoughts about his body that kept him from his life. Like many of us, he'd developed a habit of judging and criticizing his body that kept him locked out of it. He was genuinely afraid of what he'd find.

Sometimes that first step back into the body is a tearful one, full of thoughts and feelings held in reserve like Sleeping Beauty, waiting for our consciousness to wake them.
We can all think of moments when we slowed down enough to let ourselves catch up with the vastness of our lives, step out of the reign of the mind or of logic, to feel what's happening right now in this moment. We may be aware of things we thought we'd left far behind.

I love this quote from Oriah Mountain Dreamer, the great poet and writer who wrote The Invitation. She was going through a move--something she wanted to do efficiently, without slowing down, so she wouldn't have to feel it. But living in her were an array of feelings--grief and sadness around the change--that her body called her to be with:

"The minute I bring my full attention to this moment, letting go of mentally keeping track of what has happened or needs to happen next, I become aware of my body. I feel my breath and the stiffness in my back and remember that I have not done my yoga yet this morning. I let my shoulders drop. I am aware of my tiredness and fear that it won't all get done or I will get sick getting it done or I'll forget something critical. And if I stay present with these feelings, letting my hands pause as they pack a box or move over the keyboard and just take three deep breaths, I am aware of another feeling that I do not want to touch, a feeling of something welling up inside me that I have been keeping at bay for weeks.

"Herein lies the answer to my question Why is it so difficult for us to bring our full attention to the present moment, to be here now? Because there are aspects of reality we do not want to accept, that we cannot avoid being with if we are present." (Oriah Mountain Dreamer in The Call: Discovering Why You Are Here)

To be still with the body is to allow ourselves to be right where we are, and to say that we are willing to hear what is there. What we have to sit with may be years of abusing and ignoring our bodies. It may be old traumas or losses. Or it may simply be the quiet joy of being present, feeling the energy and aliveness that's there, waiting for us, like an eager and open child.

Today I invite you into the present moment with your body, just this moment. Take a moment to feel what's going on in there, to notice the sensations and feelings that emerge when you slow down and step back in. How far away have you felt from the immediacy of your body? As feelings emerge, stay present and compassionate and watch what happens. Like any uncharted road, the path becomes more comfortable with time, revisiting the tracks, marking what shows up with attention.

How long has it been? What happens if you just show up to explore the body's sensations and the feelings that emerge, without expectation or judgment? If the mind wanders, return to what is present now. What is the breathing like? Does your body feel heavy or light? Where is there feeling?

Sometimes the first step to befriending our bodies is simply being willing to step back in.
Will you take that step today, even for a moment? What will your body reveal if you do?

Are you afraid of, or open to, that truth?

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